Advice for hiring committees

James McCrostie

In my final column as editor I’d like to offer some advice to the hardworking people responsible for hiring teachers in the hopes of making the process smoother for all concerned.First, please organize yourself. I understand everyone is busy but… a shambolic search won’t land the best candidate, no matter how much of a buyer’s market the employment situation happens to be. If your school doesn’t hire regularly, think about all the steps necessary for hiring before writing the job ad. Typos in a job ad should be a red flag to job hunters. Too many positions are advertised with non-existent or incredibly vague job descriptions. Schools that can’t describe an opening in terms more detailed than English teacher wanted deserve to be swept away by a CV tsunami. State exactly what the job entails in the ad. For example, give the number and types of classes, the class goals, as well as the type and number of students. Furthermore, the phrase Teachers may be asked to perform various other duties means little, even if it allows you to dump any task onto a teacher’s lap later on. Try to give a few examples. Being more specific about qualifications would also cut down on the number of applications. If you want someone with a Master’s degree, please say so. Demanding a Master’s or equivalent academic achievement without defining what that equivalent might entail begs for a blizzard of resumes from unqualified candidates to cover your desk. Also, and this is just a suggestion, think about how your school limits itself if it just looks at resumes from native English speakers. You want to hire the best teacher for the job, not the best passport. Schools often require detailed application packages including a cover letter, resume with photo, an essay, and perhaps even photocopies of degrees, transcripts, and passports. And don’t get me started on the Byzantine forms that each university requires. Why ask for all this information you’ll have to read if you don’t even have the time to show candidates a little common courtesy like keeping them informed? I recognize that the practice of acknowledging receipt of applications might seem quaint, but keeping candidates informed could save time in the long run because you won’t have to answer calls and emails from candidates wanting to know where they stand. Even announcing the hiring process timeline in the job ad would show more respect to candidates than they get now. Make sure you update the school’s website before you start hiring. Serious candidates will look at it to learn more about the school, its classes, and other instructors. Sites littered with out of date information and dead links not only give candidates (and potential students) a bad impression but also make it harder for them to present their skills and qualifications in the most precise manner. For example, a school might not update its webpage to mention its new kids classes. As a result, teachers with lots of experience teaching children fail to stress this in the application materials. I’ll save advice on how to conduct an efficient interview for another day, but at the end at least tell candidates when they can expect to hear your decision. If a candidate is the first of five people you are interviewing and a decision won’t take place for another week, say so. Finally, giving the bad news to those failed candidates who were interviewed is better done by telephone than email. Form rejection letters delivered months after the interview serve no meaningful purpose at all, unless of course you really intend to twist the knife deeper.